Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One Glad Morning

When I was a kid, I use to love looking at pictures of tropical locations. The sustainable memory of how beautiful the sandy beaches, majestic waters, and heavenly skies draped over the water are still so vivid in my head. Other visual memories are beginning to fade in color and definition. But the visual memory of how the beach looks is burned into my memory; I hope forever.

Interestingly, I never got a chance to actually see the beach/ocean in person. That’s one of my life regrets. I only got a chance to experience its beauty from film, either in a postcard, photo, or television. Although I’m certain that the camera captured the beauty of the beach, I’m also certain that the camera did it no justice.

I got a chance to visit one of the beaches in Florida last month. Although I couldn’t actually see the sand, the splashing waves of the ocean, and the beautiful sky, I was still enthralled by its beauty. I stood there on the beach, picturing in my head how gorgeous the scenery was that surrounded me. I felt so blessed to be in the presence of such a beautiful gift from God.

With every step on the beach, I enjoyed the feeling of the hot, powdery sand under my bare feet. I’ve been to Galveston before. That beach ain’t really a beach. Instead of luscious, powdery sand on the surface, mud, rocks, broken shells, and bottle tops cover the beach. I hate to diss Galveston, especially since I’m a Houston girl. But the truth is the truth.

I probably should have been afraid to go into the water, being that I can’t swim. And let’s not forget that Florida is known for having hungry sharks in the water… But the further I walked onto the beach, I began to disrobe myself of the fear of experience the water. My sister walked me out to a safe part of the beach. The water rushed up to my knees and after only a few seconds the waves followed God’s command to return back to the ocean. It was so beautiful.

My heart began to celebrate God’s glorious works. I thanked Him for allowing me to be apart of something so much greater and fantastic than I can even imagine. My spirit worshiped the Lord, right there on that beach.

I wished that I could see the tropical landscape that surrounded me. I almost got sad for not being able to partake of the visual pleasures. But I was comforted by the thought that I would one day get a chance to see heaven. I usually don’t get caught up in that “some day-heaven” thinking. Although I am confident that I will go to heaven, and I am certainly looking forward to it; I am not going to waste my time in this life daydreaming about what’s to come after this life. No point in getting lost in that. However, this particular day at the beach, I allowed myself to wander into a place that I tried to imagine…heaven… Even though it’s unimaginable, I was captivated and thankful at the very notion that I will one day make that supernaturally beautiful place my home. Sure, there are some beautiful places I wish that I could see on Earth… But the view in heaven, I’m sure, makes the most fantastic spots on Earth look like squalor.

But until I get to take that chariot ride to my home in eternity, I’m going to visit all the places that are known for its beauty. Even though I can’t actually see the beauty, my heart is thrilled at the very idea of being present in the landscape of such glorious, delightful beauty.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My Life During the Month of July: Part II.

(This is a continuation of the previous blog entry.)

I got off the floor that I needed to get off on. Thankfully, there were people on the elevator that were going to the same room where I was going. I just trailed behind them. I got lucky. I didn’t know if I would be lucky like that again. But I made it to where I was going that night. That was a huge burden off my shoulders.

The next few days were filled with numerous moments that I had to walk in blind courage. I say that because I had to make use of the courage that lies within me, without having any physical sight or any insight of what was going to happen from moment to moment. Every morning, I would get up and pump up myself to conquer my day, without fear and any tangible evidence that I was going to be okay. I would grab my cane and head out of my room, not really sure where I was going, yet certain that I needed to go. And even more certain that I needed to make it where I was going…

There were a lot of helpful people in the hotel. The staff of the hotel, other visitors, and the sighted participants of the blind convention were always asking those of us who had little to no vision if we needed some assistance. Because I’m not the kind of sister that minds getting help, my answer was usually “yes.” I don’t see any point being lost, looking lost, bumping into other lost blind people, and staying lost: only to be able to say that I’m independent. A truly independent person knows when to consider assistance. Interdependence is the way I live.

Back to the dogs… Believe it or not, I was repulsed by all the dogs. The dogs were actually well behaved. Don’t get it twisted though… It was a couple of folks there with some stinky, funky dogs. I don’t know why anyone would leave their homes, get on a plane, and come to a nice hotel, without bathing their dog. That’s the least you could do. Plus, the dogs deserve to be clean. They are working hard. Why not keep them clean?

I actually hung out with a very nice young woman from Ohio, who happened to have a guide dog. She took care of her dog very well. I never once smelled him. She kept him clean the whole week. Boy, I certainly appreciated that.

About my roommate… She was so kind, sweet, and loving. The week was made better because of her. She was very helpful. Thankfully, she had some really good eyesight. She assisted me in becoming familiar and oriented to the hotel. My life was made better because of this young woman. May God richly bless her life! By the way… She didn’t have a guide dog. (smile)

The sessions at the conference were okay. I actually thought they were a little useless and lacked in real substance. But that’s me. Overall, the conference was nice.

I felt really good about being around so many productive, employed, articulate blind people. Being blind didn’t seem so tragic that week.

Let me talk about the exhibit hall before I bring this to a close. It was great!!! There were all types of venders in this large room. Interestingly enough, the blind people were expected to navigate in this room, go from table to table, and not get lost in the process. After I managed to get over the idea that I wouldn’t be able to navigate in this room with my confidence and sexiness in tact, I became even more confident and sexy. LOL I whipped out my cane, constructed a smile on my face, and felt my way from table to table.

If no one greeted me, I would announce my presence and inquire about their exhibit. I couldn’t believe it. I really can’t believe it now. I actually extended myself more than I ever-ever imagined. There was even a time that I went to a table that had no one there. But I didn’t know that. I was introducing myself to the air. That was totally unsexy. But I just took a deep breath and went to the next table. I just hoped that since I was at the blind convention, no one noticed. And if they did, we were at the blind convention. Some things were to be expected.

I was very pleased to see all the new technology that’s currently available for the blind. Color identifiers, currency identifiers, new talking GPS systems, a talking bar code scanner… They even had a digital camera that a blind person can use to take a snapshot of print, and the device will actually read the print back aloud in a matter of seconds. Revolutionary! So many products… No money to buy them… The average price for an electronic notetaker is over $2K. And the camera/portable text to speech scanner is $3500. I need a rich man or a high paying job. Either one would satisfy me.

My birthday was great. My babysister joined me in Florida. We had a good time together. The beach was a fantastic experience. But I’ll talk about it later. This entry is already much too long.

Well, I’ll find myself back on this blog real soon. I have to talk about my trip to NYC the next time. I promise this is the last of the long entries for a while. Be encouraged, productive, and aware of your potential.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My Life During the Month of July: Part I.

I’ve been back from NYC for a little over a week. I’ve wanted to post on this blog, but distractions, procrastination, and even laziness were successful at keeping me away from posting. I’ve thought about all the things I would like to say on this blog… But have not taken any time to sit down and craft an entry that is reflective of what I’ve experienced in the recent weeks. In fact, I’m not going to really do it justice now. Distractions, procrastination, and yes, even laziness are still preventing me from really pushing out a detailed blog entry. Shameful, isn’t it? Yes, I’m ashamed…

I guess I will go in sequential order… But before I get started, I’m going to break the order by stating the most recent thing that has happened to me. Actually, it happened to my mother. Mama had another stroke the day I returned from NYC. Don’t worry… She’s doing great… God really did intervene. I’ll update you all later. In the meantime, please keep my mother and the rest of us in your prayers.

Back to my story in sequential order… I will start by discussing my trip to Florida.

Although I had been looking forward to my trip to Jacksonville, anxiety visited me a couple of days before I was schedule to leave for the sunny state. I was a little concerned about whether or not I would enjoy the conference. I didn’t know if I was going to Florida to spend a week of my valuable time with idiots, who happened to be blind. I didn’t know if I was going to be spending the week with those who I like to refer to as “blind radicals.” (Blind people who think sight is useless and unimportant…)

Furthermore, I didn’t know if I was going to have a cool roommate. And since I’m, in general, afraid of dogs, including friendly seeing eye dogs, I was certainly worried if I was going to be rooming with a responsible, yet hairy, most of the time smelly, licking, sniffing dog.

I was also a little concerned about how I would manage as a totally blind person in a hotel that I had never stayed in. Not the hotel room… I was thinking about the entire hotel. I suspected that I would be expected to travel independently, find all the rooms that I needed to go to for meetings, find the restaurants, and so on, without any assistance. Yes, I’m pretty independent. But I don’t have a bright red S on my chest.

Well, since I knew I couldn’t back out of the trip, I took a deep breath and boarded the plane to Florida. It was about 4 other blind people on the plane with me. Three of these folks had a guide dog. Wowee!!! Because the airline felt that all of us blind folk needed to sit together, they escorted each of us, one by one, the first few seats in the little jet. That day, that section of the plane was considered “blind class.” There we were the 5 blind people, and the 3 hairy companions. Trapped on a plane with dogs sniffing my feet and rubbing their coats against my legs… What fun…

Of course, all of us, the blind passengers and the sighted dogs, were all headed to Florida. I began to imagine what was waiting for us in Florida…a whole slew of blind folks… Was I right? Of course I was right. When the plane landed in Jacksonville, the nicest airport staff was patiently waiting to assist us down to baggage claim. After they assisted us with locating our baggage, we were guided to the section of the airport where the shuttles drop off and pick up. I road a shuttle, filled with blind passengers, to the Hyatt. Interestingly there were no dogs. I don’t know how I dodged that fuzzy bullet. I guess they were in the shuttle that was riding ahead of us or behind. Where ever they were, I was glad to have a break from them.

Upon arriving at the Hyatt, we were clumsily led out of the little bus. We were instructed to stand still and wait for a minute to claim our luggage. They didn’t have to worry a bit about me wandering off into a land that I was unfamiliar with. I waited like a good little girl.

As I stood in the soothing rays of the sun, waiting for my luggage and a arm to guide me to my next destination, all around me I heard white canes tapping, men and women talking to their guide dogs, giving them directions, and helpful volunteers, making themselves available to any blind person that needed assistance.

One of those helpful volunteers helped me identify my luggage, and then she guided me inside the hotel. I was so relieved to have a person that was willing to assist me. Independence is quite important to me. But fumbling, being lost, and trying to pretend to be cool about it is not a sexy feat. I’d rather not engage in such challenges. At least, not right then…

I was escorted to the conference registration desk, to the front desk of the hotel, to the bar and grill in the hotel, so that I could grab lunch, and then to my room. That was a breeze.

My roommate had already checked in, but she was not in the room. I didn’t smell dog hair. I sat down and ate my lunch and pondered about how I was going to get downstairs for the first event of the conference. After eating, I called downstairs and asked for a volunteer to help me become more familiar with the hotel. I even asked could someone assist me down stairs. Just what I expected… The person on the other end of the phone said NO. I huffed and puffed over the idea of trying to get downstairs to the where I needed to be.

Suddenly, courage gripped me. I whipped out my cane and started traveling down the hallway. I tried to retrace my steps back to the elevator. After only a few turns down the winding hallway, I was lost. But I was way past the point of no return. I was too lost to find my way back to the room. So, I decided to continue on and try to find the elevator. After taking a few more cautious steps, I heard the sound of triumph, the dinging of the ascending and descending elevator. Thank you Jesus! I hopped on the elevator, pressed the brailled #3, and headed downstairs. While I was relieved, I knew that this was only the beginning of my adventure.
It’s 3:00 in the morning. I’ll continue this long story tomorrow.